What does a Substance Abuse Social Worker do?

Median Pay $47,830
Growth Rate 2%
Citation Retrieved from BLS.gov

A substance abuse social worker will counsel a person or group of people that are overcoming substance abuse addiction. They also help these individuals overcome the challenges associated with addition, such as unemployment or other illnesses. In general, these social workers help individuals to get back on their feet and stay sober.

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How to Become a Substance Abuse Social Worker

Though substance abuse social workers can gain an entry level position with a bachelor’s degree, most have a master’s degree in social work. According to O*Net OnLine almost 60% of the substance abuse social workers interviewed held a master’s degree compared to an estimated 15% that held a bachelor’s degree. Other individual’s reported earning a certification after completing their master’s degree. Most employers are looking for a master’s degree in social work.

Job Description of a Substance Abuse Social Worker

what does a substance abuse social worker do

Substance abuse social workers will interview a client to see where they are at in their recovery journey and meet with other professionals to evaluate how best to help the person overcome their addiction. They would also evaluate the person’s progress with their treatment goals. Should the individual need additional support to help them deal with additional life challenges, they would leverage any community or medical resources available to help the individual.

A substance abuse social worker can also lead group sessions to help build a community of support for those recovering from substance abuse. They create a safe space for those individuals to share their struggles and also provide education to the group to address those issues.

Substance Abuse Social Worker Video Transcript

When people experience substance abuse, depression, anxiety or other mental illness, their issues can feel insurmountable. For help, they turn to mental health and substance abuse social workers. These social workers provide counseling to help individuals and groups recover and often consult with other professionals to evaluate the mental or physical condition of a client. As part of helping clients re-enter their communities with greater health and stability, they may offer outreach, crisis intervention, social rehabilitation, and training in the skills of everyday living.

Good record-keeping is important. This field requires critical thinking and problem-solving skills. You must be patient, a good listener, and an effective communicator. The job can be mentally and emotionally taxing; understaffing and large caseloads can add to the pressure. And it can be dangerous, clients who struggle with poverty, drug addiction, and physical abuse may require help in difficult or dangerous environments. Most work in hospitals, substance abuse treatment centers, and public or private agencies.

Although some work may be available with a bachelor’s degree in this field, most of these jobs require a master’s degree in social work and a state license. For those who struggle with addiction or mental health problems, the support and guidance of mental health and substance abuse social workers can be a lifeline.

Article Citations

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers.

National Center for O*NET Development. 21-1023.00. O*NET OnLine.

The career video is in the public domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.